The Piano

The Piano
 
(Jane Campion, 1993)
 
Rating: 5/5 
 
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster 
 
Summary: A quartet of perfect performances harmonise wonderfully in Jane Campion’s lyrical and symbolic drama which still plays strong 25 years later. 
 
Watching The Piano a quarter century after its initial release is perhaps even more invigorating than it was back 1993. It just has “classic” emblazoned across all of its narrative and mis-en-scene to a point whereby it feels timeless. 
 
The story sounds like it should’ve been an adaptation of a classic novel when in actual fact it was written by as an original script by Jane Campion, who also served as the film’s director. 
 
We begin as mother and daughter Ada and Flora McGrath (Holly Hunter and Ana Paquin) wash up on a New Zealand beach, their luggage left on the shore by the ship’s crew. Of their possessions, one box stands especially proud: a piano belonging to the mother, who is a mute. Ada has been sold into marriage with a New Zealand frontiersman named Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill) who promptly refuses to have his Māori crew lug the cumbersome piano through the bush back to their house and so it sits on the beach, exposed to the elements, all alone. One of the members of the crew named Baines (Harvey Keitel) is drawn to Ada’s plight and offers to rescue the piano in exchange for lessons at his house. An odd relationship between them blossoms while Alisdair remains oblivious and Flora struggles to settle amidst the community and within the odd love triangle of her mother and her pursuers. 
 
 
Hunter and Paquin won Oscars for their brilliant work as the mother and daughter while somehow Neill and Keitel were not even nominated, frustrating given that they are the perfect counterbalance for the narrative. They are the hosts to the immigrants; the land to their air; the audience to their strange music. Another massive frustration in terms of awards recognition is the lack of it for Michael Nyman’s score which is an essential component to the film. It is a character within itself. 
 
The Piano is a remarkable film in that we are granted admission to a story that unfolds through silence and music more so than traditional dialogue. As such, it’s easier to attach our own emotions to these voids and harmonies as they are not governed by the blunt, stereotypical signposts of speech. 
 
The Piano is a film that the audience gets to see, hear and feel like a memory of blossoming love or haunting codas. It is universal in appeal and beautifully presented. 
 
 
Studio Canal’s 25th anniversary Blu-ray boasts a beautiful print, a brief making of documentary and retrospective featurette that sees Jane Campion and producer Jan Chapman look back at the film’s genesis, production and impact. Strongly recommended.
 
Disc 1
NEW The Piano at 25
A brand new featurette looking back at THE PIANO for its 25th Anniversary, featuring an extended interview with Director Jane Campion and Producer Jan Chapman filmed at Karekare beach, New Zealand.
 
The Making Of
A vintage featurette exploring the production of THE PIANO
 
Audio Commentary with Jane Campion
An informative commentary to the main feature from Director Jane Campion
 
Disc 2
Original soundtrack CD
 
Also Includes Booklet featuring new essays by: Film critic & broadcaster Anna Smith, Screenwriter & critic Kate Muir and Film journalist and Editor-at-large of Empire magazine Helen O’Hara
Alternative artwork poster
 
 

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